Naval Gunnery in the 17th and 18th centuries

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 Naval Gunnery in the 17th and 18th centuries

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  • #13444
    Sam Willis
    Keymaster

    I am struggling to find quality material on the range of naval guns from say 1650-1815. 32/24/12 pounders. It would be good to know the ranges at maximum elevation and horizontal. I also wonder if the ranges changed with the type of shot – I presume chain and bar shot flew less far than ball?

    All help gratefully received.
    Sam

    #13445
    Wayne Tripp
    Participant

    Sam –

    Here are a couple of period items which may have some of the desired information.

    Muller, John. 1768. A Treatise of Artillery …: To Which Is Prefixed, an Introduction, with a Theory of Powder Applied to Fire-Arms. A Treatise on Artillery. London: Printed for John Millan. https//catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008591665.

    Benjamin Robins. 1805. New Principles of Gunnery Containing the Determination of the Force of Gunpowder, and Investigation of the Difference in the Resisting Power of the Air to Swift Ad Slow Motions. … By Benjamin Robins, … with an Account of His Life and Writings, by James Wilson, M. D. F. Wingrave, in the Strand. http://archive.org/details/bub_gb_zokXxSnkinIC.

    Simmons, Robert. 1812. The Sea-Gunner’s Vade-Mecum: Being a New Introduction to Practical Gunnery, Expressly Accommodated to the Use of the Royal Navy, &c. and Including the Rules of Decimal Arithmetic, So Much of Practical Geometry as May Be Required in the Art … and a Variety of Information with Instructions Useful to Gunners, Both at Sea and On-Shore. Steel and Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=aztFAAAAYAAJ.

    Sir Howard Douglas. 1855. A Treatise on Naval Gunnery. J. Murray. http://archive.org/details/bub_gb_PK50sbOOfjUC.

    #13446
    Aldo Antonicelli
    Participant

    Sam,

    For data regarding the early years of the XIX century I may add two more period manual which you may both download from Google Books:

    Lieut. T.S. Beauchant, The Naval Gunner, Devenport 1828

    Sir Howard Douglas, A treatise on Naval Gunnery, Second Edition, London, 1829 (it is a earlier edition of the book mentioned by Wayne Tripp)

    (you may download them by searching in Google Books by title and author)

    As for earlier periods, I think you may find the data you are looking for in CARUANA, Adrian B, The History of English Sea Ordnance 1523-1875. vol I, 1523-1715. Unfortunately it is an out of print and much expensive book which is sold only by antique booksellers, but maybe it may be found in a library.

    Regards, Aldo

    #13448
    David Hepper
    Participant

    For a list of 18th century works on gunnery see:

    http://www.bruzelius.info/Nautica/Bibliography/Gunnery(18th).html

    #13450
    Chris Donnithorne
    Participant

    Good afternoon Sam,

    There are a number of books but I suspect the best starting place is The Sea Gunner, by John Seller, published in 1691. Although deficient in a number of ways, it was supposedly the first written specifically for the sea-service gunner, if we disregard the odd piece in more general publications such as The Seaman’s Grammar produced rather earlier. The Sea Gunner, which was produced in facsimile in 1994 [ISBN 0-948864-26-5], shows a marked similarity in content to the requirements for the Master Gunner’s exam being updated some four decades later.

    Regards Chris Donnithorne [Naval Biographical Database]

    #13478
    Sam Willis
    Keymaster

    Thanks everyone for all of your help.
    Sam

    #13515
    Matthew W
    Participant

    Hi Sam, by a marvellous coincidence I saw your info request just as I was reading a relevant source. For the start of your time period read The Art of Gunnery by Thomas Smith. He includes a wealth of ballistics info in his book. For the end of your time period, I was just reading a book by a Charles Bell who famously served as a surgeon at Waterloo. He describes how Naval warfare had changed from longer range to point blank range – giving fire within musket range. This reflects the use of carronades in the time of Nelson. Interestingly, the Admiralty tested the range of carronades in 1813 and found they did not have a significantly shorter range than standard length guns. A 32Lb carronade would fire a similar weight of shot to a 24Lb long gun at similar ranges. At point blank the carronade ranged to 320 yards to the 200 yards of the 24Lb. This difference is not so much due to ballistics or thermodynamics as the geometry of the carronade. They were short, fat and very conical, meaning an apparent external elevation of zero would have the bore of the gun elevated by several degrees.

    #13516
    Wayne Tripp
    Participant

    Sam –

    I was perusing Smith’s Seaman’s Grammar (1691) and came across a couple of tidbits you may find of use.

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    #13521
    Wayne Tripp
    Participant

    Oops – forgot to add the sample on the use of that last table.

    Also, you may want to see if you can locate a copy of John Seller (1691). The Sea-Gunner: Shewing the Practical Part of Gunnery, as It Is Used at Sea … To Which Is Added an Appendix, Shewing the Use of a Proportional Scale, Etc.

    He provides some additional detail on the calculations along with a couple of useful tables and graphs. Again, both of these are for the early part of the timeframe you were inquiring about.

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